Monday, May 20, 2013

Some people compelled to complain

Soon to be undergoing long-overdue repairs. Photograph provided by LHOON

I write this during the weekend anticipating all the rants and rages we’re going to hear Monday from South Side residents who have to rely on the Chicago Transit Authority’s “Red Line” trains.

That, of course, is the line that was shut down completely beginning Sunday so that crews can work around the clock (instead of in shifts around “el” trains) for the next five months to upgrade the track.

IF IT HAD been done in shifts, it would take years to complete the work. Which would mean years of inconvenience.

By doing an outright shutdown, the work can be completed sooner and the benefits to be derived from upgrading the train that runs down the middle of the Dan Ryan Expressway to 95th Street will be felt sooner.

For what it’s worth, CTA officials claim that improved tracks will allow for the “el” trains to speed through the area faster – possibly reducing as much as 10 minutes off the total commute for anyone who goes from 95th Street all the way to downtown.

Now as one who has, from time to time in my life, had to rely on commuter trains for transit (and still uses them on occasion), I comprehend that it’s going to be a pain in the behind for those people who are used to relying on the Red Line (which, in a sign that reveals my age, I still think of as the Dan Ryan Line).

THEY’RE GOING TO have to find an alternative. And I’m sure there are some for whom shifting to a Green Line (a.k.a., Englewood/Jackson Park Line) train or using the Metra Electric trains that make stops on the Sout’ Side between Michigan Avenue and Blue Island is not going to be practical.

Some people may have their livelihoods seriously interfered with by this repair work.

But the simple fact is that all things eventually wear down. Eventually, everything needs serious upgrades in order to keep them in use. Unless we want them to deteriorate to the point where they become unusable – if not downright hazardous!

Now some people want to see a racial angle in this move because of the fact that this repair work is going to impact overwhelmingly African-American neighborhoods – since the reality is that many of the white people who use the southern extension of the Red Line (they think of it as the train that goes north to Howard Street and cuts through the Lincoln Park and Lake View neighborhoods) are off the train by 35th Street.

WHICH MEANS THE Chicago White Sox may be impacted – although many fans I talk with say they already try to avoid the Red Line crowds and prefer other ways (I’m inclined to try the Metra Rock Island line train with its nearby stop named for one-time state Rep. Lovana Jones) of getting to U.S. Cellular Field.

JONES: No, she didn't play for the Sox
I’m not sure I buy that angle. Although if there is a racial angle to this issue, it may well be that CTA officials were willing to let the southern part of the Red Line deteriorate to its current condition without having done these repairs much earlier.

The Red Line dates back to the 1960s, and there are parts of the track that are now going to be replaced that literally date back to the opening.

Although I suppose compared to how old the Green Line extensions to neighborhoods on the West Side were (just over a century) when CTA officials finally got around to doing upgrades on that track in recent years, the Red Line might be considered in prime condition.

THE POINT BEING that this work is long overdue. We never hear of the elevated train lines running through North or Northwest Side neighborhoods going that long a time period without repairs.

And if it had been done in a more-timely manner, the commuter inconvenience would be long past – a thing of history.


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